Heading out into the bush or boat doesn’t mean completely roughing it. Sure, there might be leaves instead of loo roll, but you can still enjoy a cool beer or 2, wherever you are. That’s thanks to an esky (otherwise known as a cooler or ice box). Well-suited for long journeys or day trips to the beach, the best esky is easy to carry and clean. It stays safe in your car thanks to tie down points and it’s strong enough to cope with plenty of food and drink, and even someone perched on top of it. This is our guide to the top esky in Australia. It combines expert testing with real-world insights.
How we picked
We started with the ever-reliable CHOICE, Australia’s leading consumer advocacy group. When it comes to eskies, they assess performance by ‘visual inspection’ and lab testing for selected models. Which means the testing for ice boxes isn’t quite as rigorous as other products they review.
Undeterred and armed with CHOICE insights, we turned to ProductReview.com.au, Australia’s first consumer opinion website. And immediately discovered that there aren’t that many eskies reviewed by Aussies. So, our usual criteria of at least 50 reviews and more than 3 stars didn’t really apply.
This meant we needed to look elsewhere to understand how these ice boxes perform. Enter Australian outdoor specialist websites, including Outback Travel Australia and Outback Review. Both these sites, dedicated to the great Australian outdoors, gave us an understanding of how some eskies worked in real-world situations. Think camping, boating, or fishing or hunting weekends.
We then narrowed down our picks by looking for certain features. We didn’t pay too much attention to the amount of time they claimed the eskies could keep ice for. That’s because these claims are rarely backed by evidence or consumer reviews. Instead, we looked for helpful things like built-in handles and tie down points, compatibility with a range of accessories to extend its use, and enough strength to sit your weary body on.
Armed with all this information, we could choose Australia’s best coolers.
7 best eskies in Australia
Important features to consider
To guide your search for an esky, here’s what to look for.
Generally, thicker walls mean better insulation. As it’s hard to tell how thick the walls are, give them (and the lids) a squeeze. If they compress easily, they’ll probably filled with air, not ice-keeping insulation.
The lid and other openings, like the drain plug, should have good seals around them. The better they are, the better they’ll be at stopping the cold air escaping.
Seam-free design and smooth surfaces are easier to keep clean. That’s because they’ve got less mess-attracting crevices.
Dry ice compatibility
Extra cold, dry ice helps keep your food extra chilled. But because it can damage your esky, make sure you check the instructions to see if you can use it.
A heavily laden esky can be heavy to move around. Look for wheels to help make this easier.
To help with carrying, handles should be heavy duty and easy to hold. Some are ergonomically designed for maximum comfort.
Need to drain away melted ice? A drain plug can help. It means you don’t have to tip over the cooler, which can be difficult if you’ve got a large or heavy one.
If you’re planning on leaving your esky alone (think on a campsite when you’re in the boat), a lockable lid is a good idea.
Tie down points
Keep your ice box safe and secure in your car with tie down points.
Compatibility with accessories
Make your esky more flexible with extra accessories. These include lid cushions, chopping boards, dividers, baskets and ice blocks. Usually you’ll pay extra for these.
What you get if you spend more
The most basic esky has most of the features we’ve covered above. Which means it should have everything you need. Pay more and you’ll get extra comfort and convenience, but probably not better performance.
A light under the lid
For easy viewing, some high-end models include a light under the lid. The only models we reviewed with this feature were from the Esky Arctic Pro Rugged range. The 50L one comes in around $200.
Want a spot to rest? Look for a model that comes with a cushioned lid. Again, the only esky we reviewed with this feature as standard was from the Esky Arctic Pro Rugged range.
The most expensive ice box we reviewed was the Evakool 60. At $459 for 60L, it’s made from fibreglass. This high-performance material is supposed to be an excellent insulator as well as resistant to odours, rust and corrosion.
Best Overall: Dometic Cool-Ice Iceboxes
There are 3 levels of Dometic Cool-Ice ice box to best suit your needs. Choose the CI 42 or 70 to keep ice up to several days. If you’re going bush, choose the CI 55, 85 or 110 which keep ice up to 10 days. If you’re into convenience, choose the CI 85W as it has wheels and an extended handle.
Dometic Cool-Ice Iceboxes size guide
- CI 42, 42L – several days ice
- CI 55, 55L – 10 days ice
- CI 70, 70L – several days ice
- CI 85, 85L – 10 days ice
- CI 110, 111L – 10 days ice
- CI85W, 85L – several days, wheels, extended handle
Regardless of which size or length of ice keeping you’re looking for, they’re all packing the same great features.
This includes thick refrigeration-grade foam insulation with a unique ‘labyrinth seal design’. Dometic claims this holds cold air inside and keeps hot air out for longer. This is helped by its rotomoulded seam-free design. No seams mean no areas for cold to escape and heat to enter.
Made of food-grade polyethylene (plastic), the CI ice boxes are strong, durable and easy to clean. Their easy-clean nature is helped by the large diameter drain plug – although we couldn’t find the dimensions of this. The strong ergonomic polyethylene handles make them easy to carry. They fold down when not in use and double as a tie down points for securing the ice box in your ute or boat. Integrated polyethylene feet mean they’re impossible to lose.
Again, to prevent any weak spots for cold to escape or heat to enter, the hinges are integrated. While the latches are made of user-friendly durable rubber. The CI ice boxes are compatible with a wide range of accessories to enhance your outdoors experience. This includes storage baskets, seat cushions, drink and rod holders and a bottle opener. However, they all cost extra.
These ice boxes have been recognised internationally for their smart design. In 2018, they were awarded an iF Design Award for Product. According to iF, this award is “recognised as a symbol of design excellence around the world”. Judges praised Dometic Cool-Ice ice boxes’ ‘smartness, reliability and outstanding design’.
Finally, Dometic Cool-Ice Iceboxes all come with a 5-year guarantee, even the most affordable one (CI 42 - $249).
All the CI models we’ve covered in this review have been tested by CHOICE. There are also a limited number of reviews on ProductReview.com.au where Waeco (Dometic’s previous name) scores just over 3 stars.
Why buy the Dometic CI
Seam-free design – which means there are no gaps for cold to escape or heat to enter.
Large diameter plug – for easy emptying when you leave.
Easy clean – thanks to the food-grade polyethylene construction and seam-free design.
Handles – ergonomic, they make the ice boxes easy to carry. They also double as tie down points.
Integrated hinges – which again means no spaces for air to be lost or enter.
5-year guarantee – all models, even the most affordable, come with a 5-year guarantee.
Award-winning – in 2018, these ice boxes were awarded the iF Design Award for product which brings international backing to their smart design claims.
The not-so-good bits
Accessories extra – Dometic CI ice boxes are compatible with a wide range of accessories – but you pay extra for them. These include storage baskets, seat cushions, drink and rod holders and a bottle opener.
No wheels – a full esky can be tricky to carry, meaning wheels can be handy. You need to upgrade to the most expensive CI85W ($469, 85L) to get wheels.
No lockable lid – which means you can’t keep sticky fingers out of your food / drink / fish / spare body parts, etc.
Consumer reviews – the limited reviews (less than 10) are only middling. But these are some of the only ice boxes that we found any independent Australian consumer reviews for.
Whatever size ice box you’re after, and however long you need to keep ice for, Dometic CI ice boxes have a solution. What we love most is regardless of the price, you’re getting pretty much the same great features. (Unless you want wheels – you’ll pay more for that.) Dometic CI ice box features include strong and durable seam-free construction, dual-use carrying handles / tie down points and compatibility with a wide range of accessories, backed by a decent 5-year guarantee.
Also Great: Esky Arctic Pro Cooler and Esky Arctic Pro Rugged Cooler
Questionable name aside, if you’re looking for an esky, you should probably consider the original. Again, we’ve got a range of sizes and prices to suit. In the Arctic Pro range, we’re covering a 50L, 70L and 120L. Or you can upgrade to the Arctic Pro Rugged range in 50L or 70L.
Esky Arctic sizing guide
- Pro 50L – up to 7 days ice
- Pro 70L – up to 7 days ice
- Pro 120L – up to 7 days ice
- Rugged 50L – up to 7 days ice – extra features include light under lid and cushion seat
- Rugged 70L – up to 7 days ice – extra features include light under lid and cushion seat
Whichever one you opt for, Esky reckons ice will last up to 7 days. This is thanks to up to 50mm of foam insulation in the lid and body, plus the silicone gasket in the lid. This helps form a tight seal and stop the cool air escaping.
They all feature heavy duty grab handles that fold down when not in use for easy storage. They also have tie down points and stainless-steel fittings to cope with harsh weather conditions. The lids are lockable to keep your stuff safe. We really like the oversize 2-piece bung that ensures any liquid stays inside. Note that the Arctic Pro range doesn’t have feet. Feet help elevate the ice box off warm ground, meaning the ice box doesn’t have to work as hard to keep things cool.
You can get some great accessories for your Esky Arctic Pro, including a cutting board, cooler divider / ice brick and a wire basket. But again, you need to pay extra for these.
If you’re going to be hammering your Esky, you might want to upgrade to the Esky Arctic Pro Rugged. Packing the same up to 7-day ice retention and features as the Arctic Pro range, the Rugged range is a tougher version. It has heavy duty rubber side bumpers and feet. Unlike the Arctic Pro, it also has a removable cushioned seat with fish ruler, a built-in bottle opener and a LED cooler light so you can always spot your beer, even at night. Also unlike the Arctic Pro, it comes with accessories, including a wire basket and 2 dividers / ice blocks. Phew.
Whether you choose the Esky Arctic Pro or Arctic Pro Rugged, you’re getting a 5-year warranty. All the models we’ve covered here have been reviewed by CHOICE. But the reason the Esky isn’t our winner? A lack of consumer reviews.
Why the Esky Arctic Pro Cooler and Esky Arctic Pro Rugged Cooler are worth considering
Silicone gasket in lid – this helps create a firm seal to trap cool air inside and adds weight to Esky’s claim that it keeps ice up to 7 days.
Tie down points – to keep your Esky safe and secure.
Stainless-steel fittings – highly durable, they’ll help withstand any harsh weather or water soakings.
Lockable lids – for keeping your stuff safe and prying fingers out.
2-piece bung – oversize, this helps keep any liquid inside with no leaks.
Price – these are the most affordable ice boxes we reviewed, starting from $149 for 50L.
Australian-designed – and designed to suit the harsh Aussie weather conditions.
Pro Rugged only: LED cooler light – see what’s inside, even at night, with this handy light built into the lid.
Pro Rugged only: built-in bottle opener – essential for hot Aussie days.
Pro Rugged only: cushioned seat – for comfortable sitting. It also doubles as a fish ruler.
Pro Rugged only: included accessories – you don’t need to pay extra for accessories, they’re included with the Pro Rugged. These are a wire basket and 2 dividers / ice blocks.
5-year warranty – all Esky’s come with a 5-year warranty, which is the same as our Dometic CI winner but for around $150 less.
The not-so-good bits
No wheels – none of the Esky’s, even the largest 120L one we’ve covered, have wheels. Which makes them hard to move around.
Arctic Pro only: no feet – having feet on your ice box lifts it above potentially warm ground. No feet? Your ice box works a little harder to keep things cool.
Arctic Pro only: extra accessories – there’s a great range of compatible Esky accessories, including a cutting board, cooler divider / ice brick and a wire basket. But you pay extra for them.
No consumer reviews – none of the Esky’s are featured on ProductReview.com.au, which means we don’t know how they perform for real Aussies.
If you want an esky, it makes sense to consider the original Esky. Especially with cost-effective options such as the Arctic Pro and Arctic Pro Rugged. Smart features, like silicone gaskets in the lid for a tight seal, oversize 2-piece bungs and lockable lids, combine with the fact they’re designed especially for Australian weather. But how they perform for Aussies? We’re not sure.
Here’s the best of the rest.
Techniice Signature Series
Techniice has gone for the theory that more is better. The models we cover offer 2 choices: no wheels (45L, 60L, 70L and 125L) or wheels (85L and 105L). Other than wheels, the features they offer are the same. This is when we get to the ‘more is better’ bit. The Signature Series has 74mm walls. Compare this to the Esky models, which have up to 50mm. Techniice reckons this is “more than twice as thick as most polyethylene ice boxes”. Which doesn’t work by our calcs, based on the Esky’s.
Sticking with ‘more is better’, the Techniice bung is also 50mm diameter, about the size of tow ball. Plus, it can hold not 1 but 2 padlocks and it has a dual air lock seal system.
All the ice boxes have 4 sturdy feet to allow 360-degree air circulation (Esky, take note), heavy duty reinforced nylon handles, tie down points and an integrated fish ruler on the lid. They’re all compatible with baskets and dividers, sold separately.
Pay more, and you can get ice boxes with wheels.
This all sounds amazing. Although all these models have been reviewed by CHOICE, Techniice claims that their Signature Series is the New Zealand winner of Best Ice Keeper according to Consumer and the UK winner of Best Ice Keeper according to Practical Caravan and Practical Motorhome. We haven’t found evidence to back these claims up.
The Techniice company reviews on ProductReview.com.au are pretty bad, with the majority of reviewers giving them 1 star. The biggest complaints are around non-delivery of ice boxes.
Choose this if – you want more for your money – more insulation, more padlock capacity, more air lock seals – and you want to pay more. You’ll need to be happy to take the risk that your ice box will be delivered.
Tropical Ice Boxes
These bright orange ice boxes are iconic on Aussie campgrounds and boats. Australian-designed, owned and operated from the Sunshine Coast, Tropical reckons they produce the toughest ‘Australian rotomoulded food-grade UV stabilised polyethylene ice boxes’. In English, this means they have the same seam-free design and material as our Dometic CI winner. It also means they shouldn’t fade under the harsh Aussie sun.
Unique to Tropical is the ‘super hinge design’. Honestly, we’re not quite sure what benefits this brings. They all have non-slip rubber feet for stability, built-in handles and a loop and button catch to secure the lid. We can’t find any mention of tie down points.
All the models we’re covering here (T52, T62, T75 and T85) have been reviewed by CHOICE and the T62 has been well-reviewed by Outback Travel Australia in their Icebox Test. The team praised the terrifically simple elastic latches, its strength and toughness and the fact you can sit on it. Tropical Ice Boxes don’t currently have any ProductReview.com.au reviews.
Choose this if – you want an Aussie classic, no-frills esky that has the strength and toughness of our Dometic CI winner without the price tag but simpler features (think elastic latches and no tie down points).
The Evakool 60 is the most expensive 60L ice box we reviewed. It comes in at a cool $459. You’re getting an ice smooth fibreglass cooler which Evakool reckons will keep ice for up to 15 days. If that’s true, it’s the longest claimed time of any of our picks.
Even if it doesn’t, the smooth surfaces with no ridges or cracks make it easy clean. Fibreglass also makes it lightweight but sturdy and resistant to odours, rust and corrosion. As fibreglass reflects the heat, things stay cooler for longer.
The handles can be used as tie-down points and it’s been designed for Australian conditions. It has protective feet, elastic latches, an optional removable food tray and a 5-year warranty. Each one is also handmade for that extra quality touch.
It’s been reviewed by CHOICE but isn’t on ProductReview.com.au. However, it’s been reviewed by Outback Australia who rate its top quality and strong performance with no downsides. It’s also Outback Review’s top choice thanks to its solid handmade construction, high quality fittings and hygienic, heat-reflecting fibreglass.
Choose this if – you think fibreglass is the best material, want to keep ice for up to 15 days in a handmade ice box designed for Australian conditions and are happy to spend over $450 on a 60L ice box.